Sir Frank Williams: Bernie came down from heaven | GRAND PRIX 247
3 April, 2015
Sir Frank Williams has become a very wealthy man as founder and team principal of the Williams Formula 1 team, but there were times when he traveled to Monaco for a grand prix with a less than a thousand quid for the race weekend, but that was before Bernie Ecclestone arrived on the scene.
Williams told Motor Sport magazine in an interview, “Until [Bernie] arrived, F1 was just another European motoring activity, but he was the one who realised that it was seriously under-developed commercially. He saw the opportunity.”
“The team bosses never thought Bernie was getting too big for his boots, because his brilliant negotiating powers were able to secure very good deals for us for each and every Grand Prix.”
“He is hugely clever, which everybody knows, but people on the outside don’t realise that he also has a fantastic sense of humour. Bernie came down from heaven: you can quote me on that,” insisted Williams.
Formula 1 four decades ago was light years away from the multi-billion dollar business it has become today. Williams began his foray into the top tier of the sport when he entered the late Piers Courage for the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix at the wheel of a Brabham.
Williams explained, “Formula 1 was very different then, in those pre-Bernie days. Seven of us went to Monaco: me, three mechanics, the truckie, Piers and his wife Sally. Sally did the timekeeping. I was paid £900 (about €1200) to turn up with one car, and £900 didn’t go very far in Monte Carlo, even then.”
“I had to borrow money from Piers to pay the hotel bill,” recalled Williams who since then has seen his team go on to collect nine Formula 1 constructors’ titles, seven drivers’ titles and win 114 grands prix in the process.